Pope Francis on Sunday called for free access to the holy sites in al-Quds (Jerusalem) as he delivered his annual Easter address amid simmering violence between Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy City.
The latest confrontations take the number of wounded since Friday to more than 170, at a tense time when the Jewish Passover festival coincides with Ramadan. They also follow deadly violence in Israel and the occupied West Bank in late March and early this month that has killed 36 people.
Early on Sunday morning, “hundreds” of Palestinian demonstrators inside the mosque compound started gathering piles of stones, shortly before the arrival of Zionist settlers, occupation forces claimed.
Israelis are allowed to visit but not to pray at the site, the holiest place in Judaism and third-holiest in Islam.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said 19 Palestinians were wounded, including at least five who were hospitalised. It said some had been wounded with rubber-coated steel bullets.
The chief of the Hamas Islamist movement meanwhile warned Israel that “Al Aqsa is ours and ours alone”.
“Our people have the right to access it and pray in it, and we will not bow down to [Israeli] repression and terror,” Ismail Haniyeh said in a statement.